First, check out PART ONE and PART TWO.
Second, lets talk about glycemic index. The glycemic index describes how foods effect a persons blood glucose level. A high glycemic food indicates that it causes a large fluctuation in the blood glucose levels and creates a lot of stress on the pancreas and in turn the heart. A low glycemic food indicates that the carbohydrate is broken down slowly and puts less stress on the body overall.
Okay, now lets talk about some of our "healthy" options for sweeteners.
SUCANAT and RAPADURA are unrefined and less processed then the above sugars and actually lose no molasses whatsoever.
These raw and unrefined sugars are better than refined white sugar by a long shot. However, they are still a form of sugar/sucrose and have a high glycemic rating.
I have been using this quite a bit in my cooking. I use the same measurements called for in using white sugar and have not noticed any change in the taste.
I am a little nervous to try cooking with molasses, as it does alter the taste of things, but I will start experimenting soon....
I use honey a lot when baking. Since honey is sweeter than sugar by volume, I tend to use 3/4 of the amount called for.
Maple Syrup - I have not found evidence of one grade being better than the other. All I know, is that Grade A in America is more runny than Grade B. Both have very few minerals, but contain significant amounts of zinc and manganese (both essential minerals.) Maple Syrup is still rather high on the glycemic index. So for us, it is a definite for our waffles, pancakes and sausage dipping pleasure, but that will be it.
Agave Nectar - I could write a whole blog on this, but luckily enough, many people already have, please check out the link for more info!!!
This is the hardest sugar to review, because there are people that swear that it is the best sugar alternative out there and then there are those that argue strongly against that. Some would say that buying RAW agave would be the difference of it being good or bad for you. But, it seems that again, the use of the word RAW is very loose. It is still heated and processed extensively, basically due to the fact that agave is not naturally sweet and needs to be altered to provide that sweet taste
One fact, is that agave is extraordinarily low glycemic, which targets, inappropriately, very well to diabetics .....BUT the reason for it being low glycemic, is because it contains a very small percentage of glucose and a very large percentage of fructose (many brands have higher amounts than High Fructose Corn Syrup.) When I hear the word fructose, I think of sugar coming from fruit, but with Agave, we are talking about a "synthetic" fructose, that does not have the minerals and vitamins coming along side them.
As I understand it, the reason for Fructose having a low glycemic index, is that it does not hang around the pancreas as glucose does, it actually is metabolized by the liver. Thus, putting lots of stress there and looks to be correlated with increased blood triglyceride levels, heart disease, and insulin resistance.
Stevia - Gosh darnit, why does there have to be so much controversy???? There seems to be nothing conclusive about this product, except that it has been used for 100's maybe even 1,000's of years in other countries, mainly Japan and Canada, it seems, and no ill effects have been reported. There are studies showing LARGE doses causing cancer, reproductive difficulties and toxicity to kidneys, in mice. These studies were challenged by more studies and little to no toxicity was found. Can you say INCONCLUSIVE???
Stevia is 300 times sweeter than cane sugar and contains no calories. It has been used in other countries medicinally. It has been used to treat depression, fatigue, It has been shown to support the function of the pancreas - increasing enzyme availability and improving the body's ability to process other sugars (sounds pretty good for the CF world?).
If you are interested in trying, which I am, the least processing the better and make sure there are no additives in it. You want pure stevia!!!! Pure stevia is a non-carbohydrate and hence low on the glycemic index. A lot of the additives are carbohydrates and thus negate the low index. The liquid form, would mean it has been processed more then necessary. People actually just grow the stevia plant, dry out the leaves and crush them into a fine powder. So, I believe if you can find it in a green powder that would be the best???
Okay, I am done....this post is way too long already!!!! There are more sugars to research, but we will leave that for another day... a long time from now :)
My goals are to continue to work with rapidura and honey in my recipes...continue to use maple syrup for breakfasts and see what I can do with stevia. Please any feedback is welcome!!! This is simply information found off the internet, which means none of it is definite fact, so if you have better info, bring it on!!!!